“We don’t have carpets yet, we don’t have internet and the TV doesn’t work all the time”Member of Children’s Parliament
All our lives have changed very quickly. A lot of adults are in the news and online saying what it is like for them – at Children’s Parliament we want to share how it is for children too. As we try to establish new ways of being in touch with our Members of Children’s Parliament (MCPs) we have been reflecting with them on changing circumstances – the sudden ending of school, loss of contact with friends, for those with care-experience a potential loss of contact with family, for every child the experience of being mostly indoors. So, how are they doing?
For many children there is an immediate sense of loss of the rhythm and security of school life. Children who were nearing the end of primary and secondary school have felt this most keenly. As one MCP parent told us: “She missed her final p7 send off, she was so upset about it, it’s like she didn’t really finish primary school”. Children are also feeling cut adrift from friends, and as one MCP told us: “I’m ok, just really bored”.
“She missed her final p7 send off, she was so upset about it, it’s like she didn’t really finish primary school”Parent of Member of Children’s Parliament
For children living with foster or kinship carers there has been a loss of planned contact with parents or other family members. In these circumstances, there can also be concerns about children’s welfare. As one carer told us: “I’m really worried about him, he is so down in his spirits. He’s not been seeing his mum; we are trying to facetime her tomorrow”. From another concerned carer: “She’s stressed though…it happens if she gets out of her routine”. And as another carer has told us: “They missed out on their contact time because it was cancelled, but we’ve managed to set up WhatsApp and they had some facetime with their mum the other day. They usually have supervised contact with dad, but it needs to be supervised, I’m not that great with technology though”.
“They missed out on their contact time because it was cancelled, but we’ve managed to set up WhatsApp and they had some facetime with their mum the other day.”Carer of Member of Children’s Parliament
Of course, much of the ‘new’ ways we need to do things will be with technology. At Children’s Parliament we are exploring the access needs for our children in order to keep in touch with us, but also of course to connect with learning, friends and fun activities. The reality is that some children do not have what they need. For one child whose family circumstances have changed the reality is: “We don’t have carpets yet, we don’t have internet and the TV doesn’t work all the time”.
Children’s Parliament workers are being told by parents and carers that they have real concerns about their child’s health, access to exercise and worries about keeping to routines, especially when it comes to sleep and access to gaming. Many families do not have access to gardens that are safe and secure and are struggling to put in place boundaries around their child being online. These struggles are particularly acute for families with a child with additional support needs or disabilities.
We also hear about parents and carers and children doing their best – and mucking in together. From one carer: “I’ve the cleanest cupboards in the world! He’s been cleaning everything, and if he gets too bored, he asks for another cupboard to clean”.
Finally, with school closures comes the need to address how children can access education. Local Authorities are working out how best to staff and organise learning, but for many of our MCPs – who were possibly already struggling to engage with school and learning – there are real concerns about how they will engage with any new model of educational delivery. Having said that, what is becoming ever clearer to Children’s Parliament staff is that our teaching colleagues, who have love and nurture at the heart of their practice, are tireless in their efforts to make sure the children they care about are happy, healthy and safe. These are just some early reflections. In the coming days we will launch a blog space where children will talk about their experience of the pandemic. With our How are you doing? (bit.ly/Coronavirus_Kids) survey and the reflections from our team of MCP bloggers, we will be capturing and sharing experiences and insights from children. It is vital at this time that we acknowledge and learn from children and work together to best understand and continue to consciously do our best to protect and enhance their human rights and wellbeing. Now, more than ever, we need to make children’s rights real.
Stay safe and keep well,